Commission Aims for Medical Marijuana Rules in April

Medical marijuana dispensaries will not be allowed in Lakeland until at least April to give city officials time to draft and approve land-use rules for the facilities, city commissioners decided today in a 6-0 vote. 

Commissioner Don Selvage had called for a six-month moratorium on dispensaries, saying that even though Florida voters approved allowing medical marijuana starting in January, the state is giving health officials until summer to devise rules and regulations.

But Commissioner Jim Malless countered that the state rules will cover things like which diseases can trigger a marijuana prescription, not the land-use issues that the city oversees.

Malless argued that land-use regulations are needed more to control single-product dispensaries that might emerge, not so much existing pharmacies that are already well regulated. “Unless we change our code to manage them, we have no control,” he said.

It shouldn’t take long for city planners to draft regulations because planning journals contain lots of recent articles about marijuana dispensaries, since they have become a land-use issue nationwide, Malless argued.

Even though the state has approved just six companies to open dispensaries, Lakeland city officials have already been approached by several people asking about rules, such as how far dispensaries can locate from schools and churches, City Manager Tony Delgado told the commission.

Any new city land-use rules will need to be approved first by the Planning and Zoning Board before coming to the City Commission for public hearings on April 3 or 17.

By then, the state Legislature would have met, and the city can make any adjustments needed based on further legislation about medical marijuana, Malless said.

Mayor Howard Wiggs initially said he was opposed to waiting until April because voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical marijuana amendment last month would see a wait as a stalling tactic by government. He suggested a 30-day wait, but others pointed out that would not give sufficient time for city staff to draft regulations and get them approved by the zoning board.

Malless’ motion for a 90-day moratorium on dispensaries was approved 6-0. Commissioner Justin Troller was absent.